Friday, April 15, 2005

Knock, knock Egypt

"Who's there?".
"Political change".

Unless you're the door man, you're not hearing the knocking. No one is knocking hard enough as far as I'm concerned. The only people who are claiming there's change going on, are the usual political observers. I'm sorry, but unless that change affects my life, it doesn't count.

Maybe its just starting and I just don't feel it, but if most of the political analysts are pessimistic, how can I not be. What's a constitution amendment, which some say that it serves Hosni even better. What's a few demonstrations. What's a few superficial pressures from the U.S. Even last week's bomb didn't change a thing.

Baheyya (from Masr yamma), captures the different classes of our society that have been actively playing out in the presumed undergoing 'political change'. I won't go as far as her in relating this to the events preceding the 1919 uprising, and the political changes that happened afterwards (I've written about that abit). I'll just say that I don't see this as 1919 part II, and here's why.

Baheyya's account of the alleged change is interesting as she's looking at it from different angles of the Egyptian political spectrum; Students, University Professors, Judges, Exiles, The Regime, and the Armed Forces. Of all those, non interest me except Judges.

Student's have been protesting for years, against everything. The regime have been successfully using tactics to crush any demonstration the students are cooking, and confining them within the fences of the campus and detention centers. The tiny, but frequent demonstrations by Kefaya don't count as a real change (its something new, but its not change). The Muslim Brotherhood are too scared to get out there, and become the state enemy number one again. They're letting others take the heat for a change. All those demonstrations put together are in no way a match to the previous demonstrations after The Hebron (AlKhalil) Massacre and the Iraq War III. Those demonstrations were for an external cause, yes, but were in fact against the regime.

I find university professors irrelevant in that alleged movement of change. The regime did make sure to put them under its control a while ago. The law that was passed in 1994 to have the faculty deans appointed instead of elected did kill any independance for our public educational system, and it ensured that no politically active professor can have any influence over the educational system. That law has certainly added more damage to our educational system more than anything else. Most university professors would not get involved in political activism. Those who tend to be involved have been there for a long time, and quite a number of professors are already sympathetic to the Muslims Brotherhood. It doesn't count if a political science professor is involved in politics, criticising the government. And having a few Cairo University professors creating a movement to attempt to curb the regime's intervention in the University is well and good, but I won't hold my breath.

The notion of exiles is very new in Egypt. Not a single Egyptian (Egyptian singles can speak below) will accept a group of exiles trying to get external powers meddling in the political scene. Trying to associate themselves with local movements such as Kefaya, will achieve nothing more than hurt Kefaya itself. As long as they call themselves "exiles" they will not be accepted by the Egyptian public, and will be considered un-Egyptian.

The regime, as Baheyya explains, is playing their usual games, enjoying their controlled dialogue with the so-called opposition, creating a National Council for Human Rights to watch over itself, headed by Kamal Abul Magd who's constantly under fire for his role (I respect him however), and sending its citizens glossy Party promotional material. Nothing new there. If we're looking for dissent among members of the regime however, none is obvious. Examples of real dissent among members of the regime can only be drawn from Sadat's era (Saad ElShazly and Ibrahim Kamel), not from our current time.

As for the armed forces. No one knows what's happening within the military. My guess would be that the military is stable, and officers are content, with no "bad" intentions. If there is a game that Mubarak masters, it is the one with the military. How he sidelined Abu Ghazala, who could've taken over the country if he wished, proves that Mubarak knows how to play that game --unfortunately, costing us our national security.

Compared to the military, the Police (even State Security, "Amn ElDawla") is a pussycat. After the Amn Markazy riots in the late 80's breaked out, the regime has ensured that no similar incidents may reoccur, and is always ensuring that the Police might is always under tight control. As an example, even in the peak of the Police might, fighting terrorism in Upper Egypt, they were not allowed to use helicopters, which would've probably ended battles faster and saved a number of police lives.

Therefore, I find nothing new in all the assumed friction happening in those classes of our society. What's interesting to me though is what I read of the Judges. When I heard of Mubarak's decision to amend that clause in the constitution, I thougt that the burden to follow-up mainly falls on law makers and civil activists (not street demonstrators). But Judges are a critical factor there too. If they go through with their threat of boycotting the supervision of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, that would put the regime in a very unpleasantly awkward position. Police supervision of the elections is not an option, and I wish international supervision is an option, but it isn't. So I think Judges can in fact exert pressure on the regime, and can in fact push the regime to give in more.

One other group of our society --which I shouldn't miss-- that's involved in that political change, and is getting a boost lately are NGOs that are getting funding from the US. The US just announced giving $1 million in grants to five local democracy groups in Egypt. Naturally, everyone should be very skeptical of such a move. Democracy will be a goal of the US only if it serves its interests, and so far it doesn't. If such a policy is changing for the sake of a better image of the US, then we can't hope for any results from such an initiative. However, if such a move (seeming to promote democracy) is a result of the US belief that democracy can now serve the US interests in the region, then I would reluctantly welcome it. Sure, most people in Egypt would call them American agents, and most of them probably are. Yet as long as they do not serve a hidden American agenda, and do not reach power as a result of their activism, I am fine with what they're doing, and would even encourage it. If they will be a factor in a potential change, yet not end up being part of it, then they should ask for more money from the US.

Real change would do Egypt alot of good. Any change (positive or negative) will take us a long way in a better direction. A massive shake-up would do Egyptians well, and maybe we, Egyptians, will change as a result. Be it the Muslims Brotherhood take over or some other American stooges (which I dislike both), it would be better than the current state of impotency and dire stagnation that we're suffering.

I am the kind of person who strives for change, yet am very uncomfortable with it. So I should notice when there is change in the air. I am not feeling anything yet.


Highlander said...

It's all cosmetic ya Mohamed ...

Al Sharief said...

It is changing Mohamed but @ an extreemly slow snail pace...
You 're Right it's hardly noticable. But the fact that you ( and few others) are blgging about it with such a degree of poltical conciousness is indeed promising. Unfortunatly it was way much more stagnet and way more frustrating.
Your attempted break away from poltics was very short lived..:-)
& this is good news that folks stay awake and alert to the realty of the pressing one pole superpower unto this part of the world..
A very small stone was placed ( not even dropped)in the stagnet water of Egypt poltical life by changing article 76 causing artficially big splash, and all due to the unprepardness of the poltical parties and their leaders. Unfortunatly, at the currenttimes, meaningful changes has to be a regime sponsored ones.
One would hope that "Hosney" take on the opportunty and make few of these necessery changes and he could become a good legacy president for his people, indeed he is one of the luckiest leaders in the region to have such an opportunty in the recent history..

Anonymous said...

I understand your concerns for change. Although, I should say that a desire for either positive or negative change can have dire implications for all Egyptians, perhaps mostly for the students such as you all.
As well, I think change in society could not occur because a few NGOs supported by US dollars stir up and shake up society. The deep social relations that define Egyptian society needs to be transformed. Unless social groups (mainly the oppressed and poor) on a broader societal level attempt to change their conditions, no one else can help.
all the best,
an outsider

Mohamed said...


I'm not sure why you refer to me as "you all"? there's only one of me here! And I'm not sure why you think I'm a student? maybe you mean a student of democracy, eh!

You didn't actually understand the post. I don't have concerns about change, I'm wondering where it is, and looking forward to it.

No one said that a few NGOs will change society, but I do believe they can have a helping hand for sure. I have been constantly saying here that the Egyptian social and cultural setup is what needs to be changed the most, but I disagree that it has to come from the 'poor and opressed'.

ibn_abdel_aziz said...

Both sides are the problem...the government and the opposition.